Cooper Crouse-Hinds is the global leader in hazardous-duty electrical equipment used primarily in petrochemical industries. These products are designed to protect personnel and electrical systems in hazardous commercial and industrial environments.
American history at the beginning of the 20th century is rich with countless success stories of new and emerging companies that have kept pace with exciting new discoveries, fueling economic growth. The petrochemical industry was growing quickly at that time, and helped spur the growth of the automotive and aviation industries. Manufacturing processes necessary in these burgeoning industries required electricity to keep the factories humming with productivity. But many of these processes increased the potential for fire and explosion.
Meeting the challenges of these situations, Syracuse-based Cooper Crouse-Hinds designed, engineered and manufactured a line of explosion-proof Condulets® – a combination of conduits and outlets – to make the electrical equipment safer in these hazardous applications. “The petrochemical industry has changed a lot over the years and because the industry is a global one, petrochemical companies have long wanted one product that can be installed anywhere, whether that’s the U.S. or Europe. And we have bridged that gap,” says Paul Babiarz, business development manager.
The electrical products Cooper Crouse-Hinds manufactures are used in the exploration, refining and distribution of petrochemical products. “For example, when you are refining gasoline, there are vapors that escape during the processing,” explains Babiarz. These areas are extremely hazardous because those vapors can be ignited by either heat or sparks. Babiarz adds, “We make enclosures and other electrical equipment that can be installed and operated safely in these hazardous areas.” Some of these products include lighting products; control products such as control stations, switches and heavy-duty industrial distribution panels; and interconnect devices such as plugs, receptacles, connectors and fittings lines. “For example, when you are bringing electrical power into any facility you have to have fittings for the conduits and cabling. We make sure it all fits in together,” says Babiarz.
“We have a facility in Germany that manufactures strictly to European standards, and we have facilities in North America that manufacture to American standards,” he says. “To develop a global product line, you might say that we’ve Americanized the European products and Europeanized the American products so that these modified products can be installed any place in the world while meeting all of the world standards.”
One major reason for this approach is that Cooper Crouse-Hinds’ major customers, the large international petrochemical exploration and refining companies, wanted one product meeting both American and European standards. They also wanted to be able to rely on one major supplier. “Otherwise they would have to get the products they needed from a variety of sources including American, European and Canadian,” says Babiarz. “And then they wound up with a combination of products which didn’t really fit together.”
The two standards, the European IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) and the NEC (National Electrical Code) were not compatible, as anyone who has tried to use a hair dryer in Europe will know. “Now companies can use our products anywhere in the world, and we are the first company to have bridged this gap,” says Babiarz. This line of products is Cooper Crouse-Hinds’ SpecOne™, which is marketed throughout the world through industrial electrical distributors. Cooper Crouse-Hinds globalized its products to offer metal or plastic construction with entries for conduit or cable installations. Metal is best used in applications involving heavy mechanical abuse. The plastic products are an excellent choice in applications in which corrosion or moisture is a common problem.
Because installation methods are different in every part of the world, truly global product lines like SpecOne™ include brass, aluminum, stainless steel and nylon cable glands for metal-clad, Teck or flexible European-style cables. For installations using conduit, approved hubs are required in zinc or stainless with metric or NPT threads. For example, new control stations are available in metal or non-metallic housing that is ready to accept any type of cable or conduit, says Babiarz. Contact blocks can be mounted on the cover or back box, depending on how installers prefer to wire them.
For distributing power, the metallic enclosures are explosion-proof and house ordinary breakers. These can easily be expanded in the field by adding new breakers to the internal chassis. For corrosive or wet applications, the weatherproof and non-metallic enclosures contain explosion-protected breakers, which can be viewed and operated through a lockable window.
“Relative to others in this industry, we are a lot more globally oriented,” says Babiarz. “We have more of a global perspective in our willingness to follow our customers overseas because you are not seeing many new refineries being built in the U.S., Canada or Europe. They are being built where the products are being explored and excavated.”
One of the company’s distinctive management strategies is its rapid product-development teams. “We put teams together in Europe, Canada, and the U.S., and the product emerges based on the work of the separate teams,” explains Babiarz. “We are using this approach with a new series of floodlight products. So the castings may be made in Mexico or Spain, where the manufacturing costs are low. From there we install European components on the inside. If it’s for the American market, we will install U.S. or North American components, but the design is always the same.”
Cooper Crouse-Hinds has the financial muscle of Cooper Industries, Inc., an international conglomerate of about $4.8 billion in annual sales. Cooper Crouse-Hinds operates about 16 facilities worldwide, employing more than 4,000 people.
Babiarz says that the company’s strategy is to build onto the core business of Cooper Crouse-Hinds’ electrical prowess. “So we might be expanding more through acquisition globally, which will add to our core group of companies,” he says.